Wigan poet Lemn Sissay faces Q&A event before TV documentary about his life

A critically-acclaimed poet and broadcaster who spent his childhood in the borough will answer questions just hours before a documentary about his life is shown on national television.
Lemn Sissay and Alan YentobLemn Sissay and Alan Yentob
Lemn Sissay and Alan Yentob

Lemn Sissay is the subject of a new episode of Alan Yentob’s popular arts series BBC1 imagine...

The BBC is offering people the chance to ask him questions during an exclusive online event on Thursday evening, just a few hours before the show is broadcast for the first time.

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In the programme entitled Lemn Sissay – The Memory of Me, Lemn speaks about his life growing up as a black child with a white foster family in the 1970s in Ashton.

It covers how he was separated from his foster family at the age of 12 and left to fend for himself, spending time in care homes in Atherton, Lowton and Leigh, including the notorious Wood End assessment centre.

Lemn went on to become a well-known writer and a source of inspiration for many people around the world with his poems.

He was awarded an MBE by the Queen for services to literature.

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He has been chancellor of the University of Manchester since 2015 and provides Christmas dinners for young care-leavers each year around the country.

Last year his memoir My Name Is Why was published, which detailed his childhood, the discovery of information about his birth mother and his battle to secure records from his youth.

Lemn’s parents were Ethiopian and a film crew followed him as he travelled to Africa to learn more about his roots as part of the documentary.

As well as Lemn himself, the programme features contributions from some of the well-known names he has shared the stage with, such as Steve Coogan, Benjamin Zephaniah, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Julie Hesmondhalgh.

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There are also appearances from his close network of friends and supporters from his years in care.

Speaking about the documentary, Lemn said: “I am proud to be part of the imagine... alumni and can’t wait to see you all.”

Just before the show is broadcast, people will be able to find out more about Lemn, see clips from the show and even ask their own questions at a special online event being organised by the BBC.

Tickets are available now and people should apply by 5pm on Thursday at www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/shows/lemn-sissay-online-panel-23jul20.

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The online event is scheduled to start at 6pm that day on video conferencing platform Zoom and will be hosted by BBC Manchester’s Karen Gabay.

BBC1 imagine… Lemn Sissay – The Memory of Me will be broadcast on BBC1 at 10.45pm on Thursday.

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